👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on how Capitol Hill is reacting to the Biden administration’s renewed talks with Iran, and talk to Rep. Rich McCormick about his vote against creating a special envoy position focused on the Abraham Accords. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sen. Ben Cardin, Galit Altstein and Bill de Blasio.
Yesterday saw a dramatic day in Israel’s Knesset surrounding a vote — central to the judicial overhaul talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and the opposition — to appoint two Knesset members, one from each camp in line with the status quo, to serve on the nine-person Judicial Selection Committee that appoints judges. A contentious point of the judicial reform proposals has been the suggested change in the makeup of the committee that would give the majority of the seats to coalition members.
A majority in the Knesset voted in favor of the opposition’s candidate, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar, while the candidacy of coalition MK Tally Gotliv, from Netanyahu’s Likud party, was rejected in a 59-15 vote.
Though the vote was conducted by secret ballot, the 58-56 outcome in favor of Elharrar indicates that four coalition members voted for her, handing a win to the opposition after Netanyahu, facing pressure from both sides, instructed his coalition not to vote for either candidate.
An anonymous Likud MK who voted for Elharrartold Israel’s Channel 12, “We saved Netanyahu from [Justice Minister] Yariv Levin [who pushed for the election of two coalition members to the committee.]” The lawmaker added, “If Karine Elharrar wasn’t chosen, there would have been [another] [Yoav] Gallant incident here on steroids,” referring to the mass protests and general strike sparked by Netanyahu’s dismissal of the defense minister, which he later retracted.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and MK Benny Gantz, in a joint appearance yesterday evening, hailed Elharrar’s appointment but said they would pause judicial reform talks until a second MK is appointed to the committee. The Knesset is expected to hold another vote on the appointment within 30 days.
“The committee was not established, the threat to democracy has not been removed,” Lapid said. “Netanyahu knew exactly what the ramifications were. They were made clear to him by us and by the president — without a Judicial Selection Committee, we won’t come to the President’s Residence [for negotiations.] No committee, no talks.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu accused Gantz and Lapid of “looking for any way to blow up the talks… Yesterday they said that if their representative wasn’t selected to the Judicial Appointments Committee they would blow up the talks, but their representative was selected and in any case they blew up the talks.”
Stateside, we’ve obtained a letter sent by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Tony Blinken supporting efforts to include Israel in the U.S.’ Visa Waiver Program. The letter comes as Israel works to implement measures to bring it in compliance with the VWP’s requirements before the Sept. 30 deadline.
Renewed Iran talks met with bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill
The U.S.’ renewed discussions with Iran over the regime’s nuclear program and American hostages were met with skepticism from senators on both sides of the aisle on Wednesday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous U.S. officials, confirmed swirling rumors and reports of renewed engagements between the U.S. and the Iranian government, which have reportedly been occurring periodically throughout the year, mediated by Oman.
Kaine on credibility: “I have a hard time seeing an Iranian government that’s cracking down on people in the way they are now as sort of having the credibility to deliver a [nuclear] deal,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told JI. “I think you would find even those of us who were supporting the JCPOA, we’re so skeptical of Iran right now that you wouldn’t just get people up here who — because they supported in the past — are just going to be [supportive].”
‘Wrongheaded move’: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said he had not yet seen the Wall Street Journal report, but “if that’s the case, I’m extremely discouraged… This whole approach to Iran is a wrongheaded move that makes our nation less safe, makes the entire region unstable, and I’m very disappointed to hear.”
Read the full story here.
Going deeper: The New York Times looks at the parameters of a potential new agreement with Iran, which include a cessation of Iranian attacks on American forces in Syria, expanded cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and a refusal to sell ballistic missiles to Moscow in exchange for the U.S. not tightening sanctions on Tehran and holding off on new efforts to punish Iran at the United Nations over its nuclear work.
Cardin: ‘One of my missions’ is to help young lawmakers understand the U.S.-Israel relationship
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) reflected on Wednesday night on his career and his work supporting Israel and combating antisemitism in remarks to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The longtime senator, who has been in public office for nearly 60 years and will retire at the end of the current Congress, spoke to JCRC members who gathered at a synagogue in suburban Maryland to honor his career. Cardin’s upcoming retirement is set to deprive the Senate of one of its most prominent pro-Israel stalwarts, as well as a leading figure in efforts to fight antisemitism.
Mission statement: “One of my missions in the United States Senate is to make sure that young legislators understand why that special relationship exists, and the importance of Israel to the United States, and to make it clear that we will never tolerate the use of Israel as a partisan wedge issue,” Cardin said.
Enduring relationship: The 79-year-old senator said that the vast majority of his colleagues are “basically pro-Israel” and want to find ways to work together to get things done. “What gets confused is that because we disagree with a governmental policy does not mean that we don’t love and support our country,” Cardin said. “I disagreed with a lot of Donald Trump’s policies. During the years he was president, I loved America. I disagree with a lot of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policies. I love Israel and the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel.”
Georgia Rep. McCormick said he voted against Abraham Accords bill to combat bureaucracy
Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA) — who raised eyebrows on Tuesday as one of just two Republicans, and 13 total House members, to vote against a bipartisan bill creating an ambassador-rank special envoy for the Abraham Accords — said on Wednesday that he opposed the bill to combat expanding executive branch power and federal bureaucracy, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Bureaucracy: The Georgia lawmaker said in a statement to JI on Wednesday, “Joe Biden needs to show some real improvement with his treatment of the State of Israel — and an improvement with his diplomacy across the world — before I vote to give him a new government bureaucrat to oversee President Trump’s greatest foreign policy achievement in the region.”
Resisting: “[This bill] does two unintended things that concern me,” he explained. “It expands executive power and expands bureaucracy. Americans are seeing these powers abused at the White House and federal agencies every day, and the last thing I want is to contaminate the Abraham Accords, which are currently working very well.” Whether or not Congress passes this bill, the Abraham Accords will remain primarily under the purview of the executive branch. The administration has said it intends to create a new post to oversee the Abraham Accords; without the congressional legislation, that individual would not be subject to Senate confirmation.
Claims Conference secures nearly $1.5B in funding for Holocaust survivors from Germany for 2024
The German government agreed to allocate nearly $1.5 billion in direct compensation and home care services for Holocaust survivors for 2024, following extended negotiations with the Claims Conference, the organization announced today. The Claims Conference, formally known as the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said the German Federal Ministry of Finance had also agreed to guarantee several existing programs for at least several more years, including a direct compensation program and funding for Holocaust education, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.
Final years: “This year we were very successful,” the Claims Conference’s executive vice president, Greg Schneider, told eJP, crediting the agreements to “a combination of presenting a tremendous amount of data, the political pressure that we bring to bear and the realization, which we make clear again and again, that these are the last few years that the German government will even have the opportunity to help survivors.”
Breakdown: Under the agreements, the German government agreed to provide $888.9 million in 2024 for home care services to survivors, including “an additional $105.2 million in funding to address survivors’ increased needs,” the conference said. These services can include things like a care provider who helps with basic household tasks a few hours a week to full-time, live-in assistance. The other $535 million will go into direct compensation payments.
👨🍳 Food Journey: In The New York Times, Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi shares his recipe for Moroccan zaalouk, and explains how he comes up with new dishes. “After all the combinations you think you know, the ones you’ve never even considered will blow your mind. Say, eggplant and chocolate, in the southern Italian melanzane al cioccolato: fried eggplant strips, breaded and pressed together and covered with a glossy chocolate sauce, scattered with candied citrus and toasted pine nuts. I mean. … Add 90 or so more flavors, spin the wheel again and, before long, you’ll find yourself with about 16 pages earmarked and 15 new ideas hatched. Eggplants take you to chocolate, which takes you to miso, which takes you to seaweed, which takes you to a recipe in another book or a restaurant dish you have to hunt down straight away. The curiosity is infectious, the possibilities inspiring on this ingredient-led voyage.” [NYTimes]
🗽 De Blasio Debrief: New York magazine’s Benjamin Hart interviews former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about his tenure in office, post-politics life out of the public eye and criticism he faced as mayor. “At times, I was stubborn. I thought I was right about something or I thought I was being misunderstood, and rather than saying, ‘Okay, well let’s meet people halfway,’ I kind of dug in. That was a mistake. I think sometimes you feel you’re being treated unfairly and you’re right, and sometimes … By the end of the first term, we had historically low crime and a historically high number of jobs, and still there seemed to be a daily incessant drumbeat of critique. I’m like, ‘Hold on now. What are the ground rules here?’ Because that just didn’t make sense to me. But I now can say from a position of more openness — I would still say to you with a whole heart that I don’t think some of the critique was fair, but maybe there should have been less worrying about that, and more just meeting people where they were and trying to answer with love, not frustration, and with openness.” [NYMag]
Ξ Bankman-Fried’s Bedfellows: In The New York Times, Ben Terris examines how FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and his brother, Gabe, were able to build relationships in Washington’s most elite circles. “The Bankman-Frieds were willing to help close the politics-almonds money gap, but did they know how to spend it wisely? In some ways, they also seemed to be stumbling around. Protect Our Future, the super PAC that helped spend Sam’s millions, put more than $11 million into a single Oregon congressional race. This was ‘several times the previous record for spending by a single group in a single House primary,’ according to a researcher for OpenSecrets. Their candidate lost anyway. Today, Sam Bankman-Fried is under house arrest, awaiting trial after being charged with defrauding investors and violating campaign finance laws, among other crimes. Gabe has stepped down from Guarding Against Pandemics and has essentially disappeared from the public eye. And politicians and organizations all around Washington have been returning their donations and trying to figure out how to make up for the lost cash.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🗓️ Mark Your Calendar: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff was announced as a speaker on a panel discussion about combating antisemitism at the upcoming Aspen Ideas Festival later this month.
🇧🇪 Tete-a-Tete: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are expected to meet to discuss Iran today on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
🏃♂️ Growing Field: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, filed paperwork to run for president, becoming the first Hispanic candidate to declare his candidacy this cycle.
👨🎤 Troubled Waters: Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. backtracked on previous statements on Roger Waters, saying the former Pink Floyd frontman, whom Kennedy had recently praised, has applied a double standard to Israel.
🥯 Bagel Bucks: Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), a co-founder of the unofficial “Bagel Caucus,” is holding a “New York Bagel Breakfast” fundraiser in Washington today, with tickets going for between $500-$2,000.
🙏 On the Hill: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved an amended version of the Pray Safe Act, which would establish a federal database on security best practices for nonprofits and religious institutions. The amendment would sunset the program after four years and mandate a report on the state of nonprofit security grants.
✍️ Supporting Evan: A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jim Risch (R-ID), penned a letter to imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich expressing their support and “profound anger and concern” over his continued detention by Russia.
⚖️ Charges Dropped: Federal prosecutors plan to withdraw five of the 13 charges against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who alleged they were filed after his extradition from the Bahamas, but will ask the judge overseeing Bankman-Fried’s case to schedule a trial on those charges for 2024.
🪖 Monuments Men: The U.S. Army’s revived program to educate military officers — known as the Monuments Men and popularized by the 2014 George Clooney film of the same name that focused on art looted by the Nazis — is preparing new units to operate in Ukraine.
🤐 Apology Tour: A Montgomery County, Md., councilmember apologized for 2019 tweets calling Jared Kushner and former Special Negotiator for International Relations Avi Berkowitz “Zionist Jews loyal to the Trumps with zero relevant experience.”
📗 Maus Mess: The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent talks to Pulitzer Prize-winning illustrator Art Spiegelman about the latest effort to ban his graphic novel Maus, which Spiegelman wrote about his parents’ experiences during the Holocaust.
🏗️ Surfside Saga: Federal investigators determined that the pool deck at the Surfside, Fla., condo that collapsed in June 2021 had “severe strength deficiency” and that areas of the structure had failed to meet building codes prior to the collapse that killed 98 people.
🇩🇪 Deutschland Defense: Germany will purchase Israel’s Arrow-3 air defense system as Berlin attempts to modernize its military.
🕊️ Beijing Broker: Meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered to serve as a broker both in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and in Palestinian political infighting.
🇷🇺 Minding Moscow: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Knesset members that Israel has voiced concern to Russian officials over Moscow’s military cooperation with Iran.
🧱 Building Blocks: Members of Israel’s Bnei Menashe community laid the foundation stone for the Heritage and Cultural Center of Indian Jews in Nevatim, Israel.
🕌⛪🕍 By the Numbers: The number of visitors to the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi has exceeded planners’ expectations, drawing in some cases more than three times the number of expected visitors to the three houses of prayer.
🇸🇦 Saudi Sojourns: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday, while Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is slated to visit Iran this weekend.
🤝 Making Amends: Following Iran’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, the Islamic republic has signaled a willingness to restore relations with Egypt, more than 40 years after a breakdown in relations between Cairo and Tehran.
📖 Dear Diary: The New York Times published diary entries of three Iranian women over a five-week period to chronicle the changes happening on the ground in Tehran and Kurdistan.
💼 Transition: Galit Altstein, formerly the editor in chief of GLZ Radio, is joining Bloomberg’s Israel bureau.
🕯️ Remembering: Editor Robert Gottlieb, who worked on books — including those of John le Carré — and magazine articles at a range of publishers and publications including Simon & Schuster and The New Yorker, died at 92.
Pic of the Day
Officials from the Orthodox Union met on Wednesday with Melissa Rogers, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Partnerships, part of a lobbying day that saw the organization bring 15 rabbis from major Orthodox synagogues to Washington for meetings with legislators and Biden administration officials.
Foreign affairs producer at “PBS NewsHour” and correspondent for “PBS News Weekend,” Ali S. Weinberg Rogin…
Iranian-born British billionaire, Baron David Alliance turns 91… Former president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, Stuart C. Turgel… Former president of the National Rifle Association, Sandra S. “Sandy” Froman turns 74… Ethicist and professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Laurie Zoloth turns 73… Internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music, Zalmen Mlotek turns 72… VP of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, Alexander Bronstein, Ph.D. turns 69… President and CEO of Edelman, founded by his father Daniel Edelman in 1952, Richard Winston Edelman turns 69… Chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich turns 68… Israeli Druze politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Likud, Fateen Mulla turns 63… Novelist, screenwriter, teacher and journalist, Jill Eisenstadt turns 60… First woman certified by the NFLPA as an agent, she is now general counsel for USA Lacrosse, Ellen Marsha Zavian turns 60… Director at Citrin Cooperman Advisors, Reuben Rutman… Los Angeles-based attorney, Daniel Brett Lacesa… Regional director of the ADL based in Los Angeles, Jeffrey I. Abrams… Deputy managing editor at The New York Times, Clifford J. Levy turns 56… Chief political correspondent for CNN, Dana Bash (born Dana Ruth Schwartz) turns 52… Retired news anchor for Israel Public Broadcasting, Geula Even-Saar turns 51… Former head speechwriter for Michelle Obama and author of a 2019 book about her rediscovery of Judaism, Sarah Hurwitz… Ethiopian-born Israeli marathon runner, he represented Israel at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Zohar Zimro turns 46… Senior global affairs analyst at CNN, Bianna Golodryga turns 45… Co-founder of Evergreen Strategy Group, Daniel Baum Schwerin… Director of corporate communications and public affairs at Google, Rebecca Michelle Ginsberg Rutkoff… Global director at Birthright Israel Excel, Jaclyn “Jackie” Saxe Soleimani… Diversity recruiter at The Carlyle Group, Victoria Edelman Klapper… Analyst at Blackstone, Elli Sweet… Jimmy Ritter… Joel Winton…